In-depth reviews

Tesla Model S review - Reliability and safety

Tesla offers an eight-year battery warranty for the Model S, while safety levels are first-rate

There were a couple of instances of fires in the Model S early in its production, and the company recalled 29,000 charging adaptors as a result. But aside from this initial glitch, the Model S has reportedly been trouble-free. 

In spite of its advanced digital technologies and lack of traditional switchgear, on our test we found that everything on the Tesla Model S worked perfectly fine. The non-digital/hardware components feel well fixed together too, and the car certainly feels as though it has been built to last.

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And while it’s a relatively new company, Tesla has previously been responsible for building a run of 2,600 Toyota RAV4 EVs, as well as working with Mercedes on the electric B-Class – so it has a lot of experience.

One of the things that’ll help make owning the Model S such an adventure is the company’s stated intention to continually update the software installed on the car over its lifetime. Whether this causes any long-term problems for owners remains to be seen. In mid-2017, it even issued an over-the-air fix for a potential airbag fault, which would otherwise have prompted a nationwide recall notice.

The Model S performed well in EuroNCAP's crash tests in 2014, where it was awarded a full five stars. Individual scores included an 82% rating for adult occupant safety, 77% for child occupants and 66% for pedestrian protection. Its safety assistance package was rated at 71%, with the testers highlighting the fact that an autonomous City Braking system was not available at the time of the assessment.


The Model S comes with a battery and drive unit warranty lasting 8 years or 150,000 miles (whichever comes first), with a minimum 70% retention of battery capacity over the warranty period. It's transferrable between owners too, even if you never service the car. The rest of the car is covered for a reasonable four years, but with a rather ungenerous 50,000 mileage cap.


A fixed-price servicing plan covers service parts and wearing items such as wipers and brake pads (not tyres). At the time of writing the price is £1,800, which breaks down to £450 per year. That's pretty pricey compared to many more mainstream rivals.


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